3:50 PM: Kakko said that this was the first time he had been scratched at any level and that no one talked to him about it, he just saw that he wasn’t in the lineup. (Stepheneon)
He added that what happened in Game 6 won’t impact his desire to return to the Rangers and will instead provide motivation for next season. (Stephenson)
1:46 PM: While speaking on Monday, Gerard Gallant said that he scratched Kaapo Kakko for Saturday’s game six loss because he felt that he was dressing the best lineup.
He said, “trying to win a hockey game and just dressing my lineup. When we sit down and talk about our lineup that is what we do….we love the kid, he’s a good player, good young player, but we just thought the best lineup was trying to win that game.” (NYR)
He added, “it’s not about his game, it’s about the team game and the lineup. Like I told, most of the games we had some game-time decisions on certain people. That is the way we made it up, if this didn’t play, this guy plays, so that is how we went into the game. We weren’t sure what the lineup was going to be in warmups.” (NYR)
Gallant said that he didn’t speak with Kakko about not playing. (NYR)
He said that he expects all three members of the Kid Line to be back next season and for Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere to be in the top-six. (NYR)
Adam Rotter: Gerard Gallant doesn’t, and shouldn’t, make decisions based on potential backlash and questions, but he had to know that scratching Kaapo Kakko was going to be a story. Even if he didn’t know, Chris Drury, Rangers PR or someone had to inform him that people were going to wonder and ask questions about this. It’s not just that Kakko was the second overall pick and someone that could very easily be a huge part of the Rangers future, it’s that he was part of the one line that was consistently creating offense and generating chances.
By no means was Kakko playing at a Mika Zibanejad-type of level and he was, for most of the playoffs, the third best player on that line, but that line together had chemistry, scored big goals and generated momentum. I don’t think Kakko playing in Game Six would have changed the outcome, but Kakko is a better player every day of the week than Dryden Hunt.
Gerard Gallant, who pushed nearly every button correctly this season, never likes to reveal much about what goes into his decisions and tends to get John Tortorella-ish when prodded. He did so after Saturday’s loss when the questions about Kakko came up and he did so earlier in the season when Alexis Lafreniere was bumped to the fourth line. Putting Dryden Hunt in over Kakko and saying that that is the best lineup to help you win a hockey game is wrong. If you want to put Hunt in over Kevin Rooney, okay, that is still probably wrong, but at least it’s fourth-liner for fourth-liner. In this case you not only take out a top-nine forward, but one with lots of hype, lots of attention and one that will generate a lot of questions. None of that concerns Gallant, but with no real explanation of the decision, and then not even talking to Kakko about, it leads to a lot more speculation and noise. Again, that doesn’t concern Gallant and if Kakko re-signs then it’s probably not a big deal, but the great story of his play in the playoffs, after an almost lost season due to injury, now becomes a major question and focal point of the offseason.